Opponents dispute impact study; say May Town Center will hurt downtown

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 1:37pm

The release of the latest economic impact study for the proposed May Town Center development has not changed the views of both opponents and proponents, who responded to the report released on Monday.

The economic impact study, done by University of Tennessee economics professor William Fox of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), stated that May Town Center planned for the Bells Bend area west of town might take some office tenants away from downtown, but generally would be in more direct competition with the likes of Williamson County and Rutherford County.

Despite those findings, David Eichenthal and William Tharp of the Chattanooga-based Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies released a critical analysis of Fox’s 57-page study.

"Nothing in the CBER report disputes the highly speculative nature of the proposed May Town Center development," their analysis said.

They quote page 29 of the CBER report which states, “We make no claims as to the reasonableness of these plans and caution that the timing and extent of actual development over the 20 years or longer life of the project could differ substantially from these original projections, as the developers themselves acknowledge.”

Second, the CBER report, they say, clearly finds that May Town Center will compete with downtown and office development throughout Davidson County.

Fox’s economic impact study states on page 35: “Some proponents of the development may argue that MTC is unique and will not compete with existing locations in Davidson County… We believe this may be true for some firms but is an unreasonable assumption overall… The likelihood is MTC will generate a net positive effect on Nashville area employment because of its unique nature, but that some MTC employment will represent the results of a zero sum competition with existing Nashville office space.”

However, in the summary section regarding competition within Davidson and surrounding counties, the economic impact study points out the difficulty Nashville has had in attracting large corporate campuses.

It goes on to state that companies in the downtown central business district will “generally want to stay downtown.”

May Town Center developer Tony Giarratana said the report confirmed what proponents have been attempting to communicate for months.

“May Town Center will not complete with downtown Nashville, but, rather, will compliment downtown Nashville,” he said.

Asked to respond to the impact study’s point that 50 percent of the jobs would have located in Davidson County any way, Giarratana said May Town Center would reverse the trend of corporations relocating outside the county.

“Another 15 years like the past 15 years would surely jeopardize Nashville’s position within the region,” Giarratana said. “May Town Center will help Davidson County retain companies that need more room to expand, and will make Davidson County more competitive with neighboring counties for new companies moving into the region.”

Giarratana also said he found Fox’s impact study to be conservative in its economic impact projections.

“As a result, revenues are presented on the low end and expenses are presented on the high end. For example, the report assumes that Metro is paying $35 million to construct a school and millions more to construct a police and fire hall,” Giarratana said. “This of course inflates the ‘costs’ and reduces the net economic benefit of May Town Center accordingly.”

Still, critics also say that the economic impacts identified by the CBER report should be discounted to reflect the absence of a plan for a second bridge over the Cumberland River and into Bells Bend. Without the second bridge, they say, economic impact should be discounted to reflect a more modest build out.

Currently, only one bridge — accessed via Briley Parkway — is in the latest proposal. Earlier plans called for one closer to Interstate 40 between Charlotte Pike and White Bridge Road exits.

May Town developers took issue with another aspect of the CBER study dealing with infrastructure.

The study stated that Metro would be on the hook for surrounding infrastructure like schools, a fire hall, and road improvements. Yet, the Specific Plan (SP) zoning request filed by developers earlier this year specifically states the developer pays for all public use facilities.

District 1 Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., whose district includes rural Bells Bend, said he has not yet read the full report.

The Planning Commission will host a public hearing regarding the economic impact study on June 25, after which time the commission is likely to vote on the zoning proposal.

May_Town_Center_Report.pdf869.96 KB
cberanalysis060209.pdf93.28 KB

19 Comments on this post:

By: martindkennedy on 6/2/09 at 12:33

I respect the UT economists. They point out with that one condition - that the May Town Center is a highly speculative venture - that everything else in the report should be viewed in that light. There can be no definitive analysis on such a project.

The whole thing reminds me of reading about my ancestors in Philadelphia being drafted back in 1861 for 90 days in order to put down the rebellion in the south. Sometimes initial estimates are off... by a lot.

By: JeffF on 6/2/09 at 1:14

I have a hard time feeling sorry about any pain downtown Nashville could feel over private development elsewhere in Metro. It has been sucking up almost all public capital improvement funding for two decades at the cost of actual Nashville residential and business neighborhoods. It took Antioch residents over a decade to get a new high school to relieve overcrowding, but downtown residents (all two to three thousand of them) managed to get a dozen or more government financed recreation, tourism, and transportation facilities to go along with their TIF financed homes.

Heaven forbid if we allow private money to build something outside of the king's castle while they push hard for every last penny in taxes in the county for yet another money losing sandbox. We are trying to become a "World Class City" after all.

Downtown has just about sucked the cow dry. Time for Bessy to get some "me time" in another pasture.

By: grapa on 6/2/09 at 4:30

There will always be two sides. Now they are proponents and opponents. After the final decision there will remain those who differ in opinion, they will be called critics, then. That is okay.

Everyone was in expectation before this report and counted on its' backing to support his or her cause. Now that it is here some choose to say it does not substantiate anything.

This is a study in human nature. We can see how each handles stress and failure. Men find it difficult to throw down their 'arms' and work together because men are competitors. It is how we have learned to survive in this world.

By: WrdBrn on 6/3/09 at 6:40

A lesson in double speak

"For example, the report assumes that Metro is paying $35 million to construct a school and millions more to construct a police and fire hall,” Giarratana said. “This of course inflates the ‘costs’ and reduces the net economic benefit of May Town Center accordingly.” ... The study stated that Metro would be on the hook for surrounding infrastructure like schools, a fire hall, and road improvements.

"Yet, the Specific Plan (SP) zoning request filed by developers earlier this year specifically states the developer pays for all public use facilities."

IN many articles Reston VA is touted as an example of the potential of May Town. Reston sits between economically upscale areas ... a good example would be like the Hill Center Between Forrest Hills and Belle Meade. The next set of communities are equally comfortable in any direction. When you are inside the castle at OZ you forget the challenges and perils that lay outside.

Maytown will leave the city footing the bill for water, sewer, trash pick up, the need for schools public, charter, and private at all 3 levels. May town will leave the taxpayers of Davidson County - Not Williamson, or any other county the corporate execs touted to be salivating over moving their corporate campus here, will have to stretched their tax dollars over: street lights, police protection, fire protection, emergency services, social services at the city state and federal level. Every line item in the budget will have a portion that will be allotted to the new May Town councilmatic district. (One councilperson over that area with TG's estimates is not realistic. For that matter will it become yet another unincorporated city with in a city?)

Look at any list of the top 100 places to live and work. By in large, they are dense localized communities with a passion, a fierce pride for community, for heritage.

Metro Nashville needs to take on a campaign of pride and promotion for what we have. Prove that as a city she can hold the water she has already ponied up to carry. Then and only then should we invite another weight on the bar.

May Town is wrong for the overall growth of Nashville in the long run. It is a pristine piece of land that Tony and is big shiny steam shovel lust after. You and I will be left to clean up the mess.

By: Kosh III on 6/3/09 at 7:00

"Sometimes initial estimates are off... by a lot."

Yeah, kinda like "how long that conflict would last, it could last, you know. six days, six weeks, I doubt six months. " Rumsfeld. Feb 03

A second bridge will be needed. The NIMBYS in West Nashville/West Meade will refuse to allow one where it should go. Instead, OHB thru the Bend will be widened substantially. When this proves inadequate, then what?

This is not Cool Springs. There is not a freeway running thru it. This is pastures and woods which need to stay that way.

Once the Mays get the approval, they will turn around, sell it at a huge profit to someone else who will have no desire to build MTC.

By: nvestnbna on 6/3/09 at 7:19

The priority for downtown is convention centers and indigent services, neither of which appeal to corporations looking to relocate. When you have 1500 of the 3000 downtown residents classified as homeless, over half the registered sex offenders in the 37203 zip code listing the rescue mission as their residence, who can blame them?

Like most Nashvillians, I'd love to see a vibrant densely developed downtown, I'm concerned about urban sprawl and the development of some beautiful farm land, but if Nashville is going to be a viable competitor in attracting large business to the area, not Cool Springs, or Wilson County, we really don't have many other viable alternatives. The bridge connecting to Cockrill Bend is fantastic, with the airport right there, and pretty easy access into downtown, it just to me sounds like something worth serious consideration.

By: WSPanic on 6/3/09 at 7:44

Does, too; does not. does, too; does not. Just build it, already. There is no dispute at all that Nashville Davidson County is losing tax base to neighbor counties. No dispute at all. Have to be smart enough to create an environment so that companies can locate WITHIN our county. Otherwise, there will be a tremendous imbalance that means very high residential property tax rates to fund our government. . .

By: grapa on 6/3/09 at 8:25

Wrdbrn, did I see or hear you May 28? With all that you write your monologue gets down to only your one argument, 'save the land'. We all want to do as much of this as possible. We have moved on from your"Dorothy tales...."

Let us think for of 'the little train that thought it could' and believe in ourselves. Let us ask "How do we do it?" This is the power of positive thinking.

Down town should be a scene of pride, but let us accept what it is and will remain. Tourism is the largest 'product' in the state. Nashville 'lives' on tourists. Why do you think the bowl game is in Nashville, not to honor local players. Down town serves tourists, we need to continue to privide them(tourists) with what they like and with what will get them here. This also will provide the $$$$$$$$$ to build all of those luxuries that down town tenants want; living, eating and playing.

By: WrdBrn on 6/3/09 at 10:16

OH, hello Grapa. Long time no joust! I was celebrating my mother's 75th birthday on the 28th. I did take time to write and call several people before I took time away to be with my family. I have been to nearly every other session. I am so sorry if I have shirked my civic duty... **fown**

Kosh III. The US Army Corps of engineers must approve any and all bridges. They haven't even been approached yet. Geology must also be approached. The very weight of May Town may not be viable. No one is even thinking about a city 5x our city core on a peninsula in the Cumberland...

As to the homeless - are any of you working with any of the agencies doing any thing to help? Homeless in city cores are intrinsic. At least we know where they are and can get services to them. Been to Cleveland? THOSE are some aggressive homeless folks! We are blessed with many agencies doing great work. Sad that upscale communities can't put in more things for teens to do other than mug fold and shove them in trucks or throw rocks off bridges...

May Town in light of the economic climate we will be in for the next 20 years may be a fine idea on paper... but it is not viable right now. Especially not in as rural a setting as is being presented.

By: grapa on 6/3/09 at 11:36

Wrdbrn, I am jealous of being able to celebrate with one's loved parent. That is a time that is slipping from my memory.

Channel 5 had the story about the number of newborns dieing in Nashville each year. The rate was unbelievably similar to much poorer countries having no hospitals and doctors.

It is the perfect time to move Nashville to the front of progressive cities and remain the friendly southern small city that we have known. We continue to do the same things to solve our problems and get the same results.

This "fight" can not continue or reoccur every five years. It will happen. We need to be in control when it happens. The next alternative will be worse! We know this to be true but because of fear some can not make the personal changes needed to adapt and accept.

The proposed bridge spans the river with no uprights from the water. The source of water to service MTC will be attached under the bridge. This will save millions this way. Most of the work on the bridge will come from barges and cranes.

By: gid on 6/3/09 at 11:43

NO to MTC. Destroying land for $ is not the answer

By: nashbeck on 6/3/09 at 12:11


what do you call Cool Springs? Or how about all the $ that went to the interstates destroying the land up to Cool Springs, and then the land destroyed for housing to accommodate those working in Cool Springs?

Let's at least increase Davidson County's tax base with the large companies going to MTC instead of Cool Springs

By: Kosh III on 6/3/09 at 12:49

"The very weight of May Town may not be viable. No one is even thinking about a city 5x our city core on a peninsula in the Cumberland..."

Hmmmm, a very good point.

By: WrdBrn on 6/3/09 at 1:11

The stake holders of the greater Scottsboro community have asked for a specific growth plan, planning didn't even TRY to address what they learned. The residents from Beaman to Bells Bend have been snubbed. No one in their right mind would snub the Hillsboro Belmont Neighborhood Association and expect to "win". So why are the wishes of the Scotsboro residents and their friends and family that participated in meeting after meeting being poo-pooed? All because of the glitter. And what tax base, if you think this is going to make a significant dent ... show me the numbers. All that glitters is not gold, as it is said.

By: grapa on 6/3/09 at 3:12

It was this 'greeting' from early meetings that turned many for MTC. These 'stakeholders' and 'friends' turned on anyone who showed an interest to learn about what was being proposed. It had not been heard of before.

We had fought everything, and they were not defeated because there was only one way into the Bend.

If I live next to Beaman Park doesn't mean I live in Scottsboro, either. The residents of the Bend got more than poo-poo when they tried to speak up.

The Scottsboro/Bells Bend Neighborhood Detailed Design Plan and Alternate Plan do make accommodations for MTC. The mixed use plan is sensitive to the area and preserves land that all stakeholders have been asking for in the Bend.

"MTC....this is not the 'yellow-brick' road, but will preserve the green for decades to come."

By: skillet1 on 6/3/09 at 3:24

May Town is going to happen. You people are wasting your time.

By: WrdBrn on 6/3/09 at 3:29

Most of the work on the bridge will come from barges and cranes.

THANK YOU. I wonder how river traffic which is substantial will navigate that!

By: grapa on 6/3/09 at 5:13

Wrdbrn, we have come a long ways since the days of 'Twain'.

It is done in much larger metropolitan cities than Nashville. This will not be the first Nashville bridge.

By: justadude on 6/5/09 at 2:33

I'm having a really hard time understanding why people think this is such a good idea.

Has anyone ever heard of Hickory Hollow, Metrocenter, or Bellevue. All were touted as being the next big thing in Davidson County development - supposed to bring in big business and new communities.

Now look at them.
Hickory Hollow - A total has been with cookie cutter condos/apts. and a failed/dangerous mall.

Bellevue - Same cookie cutter condos, another failed mall, no really thriving businesses.

Metro Center - Same cookie cutter condos, failing car dealerships, another failed and run down mall - plus its fair share of bums.

Why do you people think MTC will be any different? Why not try to fix up or redevelop these areas before we go paving our way through the last pristine area of Davidson Co? These areas already have all of the infrastructure in place!